Louis Armstrong (1901 - 1971) was a trumpet player, bandleader, singer, film star, and comedian. Born on August 6, 1901, he grew up in poverty and got interested in singing and playing instruments at an early age, playing in marching and jazz bands. He landed a position with King Oliver, the leading New Orleans cornetist, and recorded his first solos with them. In stints with other groups, Armstrong's creativity came to the fore with his brilliant technique, expressiveness, playfulness, and special renditions of masterpieces.

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein said of Armstrong's gifts: "What he does is real, and true, and honest, and simple, and even noble. Every time this man puts his trumpet to his lips, even if only to practice three notes, he does it with his whole soul."

The consummate artist and entertainer said of his own work: "I never tried to prove nothing, just wanted to give a good show. My life has always been my music, it's always come first . . . The main thing is to live for that audience, 'cause what you're there for is to please the people."

If Armstrong demonstrated any singular quality that stood out above the rest, it was his enthusiasm. It was the energy behind his artistry and the source of his joy in playing. This character quality, one of our 37 spiritual practices in our Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, is so powerful that it can bring people together.

Celebrate the birthday of Louis Armstrong by:


Listening to his enthusiastic rendition of "What a Wonderful World" or some other recording of one of his performances.

Personal Explorations

Put some of the energy of enthusiasm into your work and spiritual practices today and see what a difference it makes.